Survey Shows How Jobless Youth are Adjusting

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With youth unemployment still near record highs, unemployed teens and young adults appear to be reacting to their situation much as their older counterparts – borrowing money from friends or family, running up credit card debt and moving in with relatives.

The youths’ reactions to long-term unemployment were part of a survey of unemployed Americans released last week by the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University,  The Shattered American Dream: Unemployed Workers are Losing Faith in their Futures.

Researchers who prepared the report compiled the findings for Youth Today from the 205 respondents 18 to 29 who were among the study’s 1,200 interviews. The researchers said they did not feel comfortable ascribing their youth-specific findings to all American youth because of the small number. However, the information they gathered from youth represents the only known attempt to quantify the impact of the recession and unemployment on youth lifestyles.


When respondents were asked to check off which actions they have taken because of unemployment or since unemployment, 46 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said they had borrowed money from family or friends, compared to 47 percent of those in the 30-44 range and 43 percent who were between 45-54.  

Similarly, 30 percent of the youngest group said they had taken a job below their education or experience levels, compared to 23 percent and 31 percent in the next two older age groups.

Twenty-three percent of the youngest group reported an increase in credit card debt, compared with 35 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds and 24 percent in the 45-54 range.

The younger respondents’ living arrangements seemed to be more affected than the older adults. Thirty one percent of the young respondents listed moving in with family or friends to save money as one of their life changes since unemployment. Far fewer older respondents made this same move: 17 percent of 30- to 44-year-olds, 5 percent of 45- to 54-year-olds and 4 percent of those 55 and older checked “yes” to having moved in with family or friends.

Researchers also asked respondents to check off the areas in which they had reduced spending to the point it affected their daily lives. More than half of the youngest group reported spending less on food, clothing, entertainment and travel, with comparably large portions of the next three older groups also reporting spending reductions in those areas.

When asked if they currently receive health care benefits, 57 percent of the youngest group said no, with the next three older groups reporting no at rates of 51 percent, 52 percent and 32 percent, respectively.

This report accompanies the latest government unemployment figures showing youth unemployment to be of particular concern. According to the Labor Department, overall unemployment in December dropped to 9.4 percent, from 9.8 percent the month before, reflecting a decrease seen across all demographics except for teenagers, whose unemployment rose to 25.4 percent from 24.5 percent a month earlier.

These latest figures appear to confirm a projection last fall that the youngest jobless population will feel the effects of a recession longer than everyone else, possibly becoming the victim of depression-like conditions lasting a decade or more.